Heather McNally received a ticket when she was parked in Centre Square last summer while at the hair salon. The Kentville woman plans to fight the ticket in court. – Jennifer Hoegg, www.kingscountynews.ca
By Jennifer Hoegg
She’s going to fight.
Dr. Heather McNally is refusing to pay a Kentville parking ticket and has gone as far as hiring a lawyer to help her dispute the case.
“It’s not right,” McNally said about the ticket she received Aug. 19 after being parked in the town’s Centre Square lot.
The Kentville resident was at an appointment at In Style Hair Design on Main Street that morning and she said she returned to her car two hours and 10 minutes later.
“When I came out, Gideon (Travis) was just putting a parking ticket on my windshield,” she said. “I was very, very upset.”
McNally said the bylaw enforcement wrote on the ticket she was coming out of Loonies and Toonies, which she disputed at the time. After talking to Travis, she spoke to her hairdresser, the police and, eventually, town hall.
“They said, ‘you’ll just have to go through the court’,” McNally recalled. So she did, and is now scheduled to fight the case March 24, 2014.
“I’m not fighting it because I don’t want to pay, I’m fighting because of the principle of the thing,” she said.
Cheryl Mason, McNally’s hairdresser at In Style, says her customers frequently receive tickets.
“We’re chasing people away,” she said. “When someone pays me $120 for a service and then go out to the parking lot and get a ticket, why wouldn’t they go to New Minas, where they can park all day?”
Mason spoke to the Advertiser in February about the problem and is frustrated that town council hasn’t changed street parking limits. She has even brought a petition to the town.
“It’s all we need,” Mason said. “There isn’t a chemical treatment we can’t get done in three hours.”
Winter is an especially bad time for her clients with mobility issues, she added.
“The clients that have walkers and canes, for them to park at the all day parking… and get to us is unbelievable,” Mason said.
Solutions, not court
A court fight isn’t what McNally really wants – she wants to find solutions for other people seeking services in downtown, especially those who don’t have her agility.
An added stumbling block is knowledge of where the all-day spots are, she said.
“(A map) should be something the town should provide to patrons,” McNally said. “I know there’s a lot of free parking and that’s great, but we don’t know where that is.”
Better signage would also be helpful, she said, and moving to three-hour street parking, as recommended by a report from town staff in September, would be a good idea, McNally said.
Town council accepted the report, but rejected the three-hour change.
“I know they say it’s to prevent people from parking and just moving their car,” she said. “(But) when it comes to people abusing it, the abuse would not increase from two hour to three hour, I would think. It would solve the problem at the hairdressers totally.”
She also would like to see less stringent enforcement.
“It’s how if you’re even five minutes over he’s on you,” she said. “I was guilty, but not by much.”
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“There’s no golden answer on parking,” Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum said of McNally’s complaint. “If we made parking (times) longer or eliminated it, then it would be a situation when all the prime spots would be filled by employees, so then you would have that much more difficulty for the customers to shop.”
He said some storeowners have told the town a move to three-hour street parking would kill their business.
Balancing the need for employee and visitor parking in the downtown core is a 50-year-old problem, he said, adding it won’t be going away soon. Tickets do raise the ire of violators, Corkum conceded.
“It’s almost the worst thing you could do is give someone a parking ticket. If they were drunk and disorderly and you locked them up over night they wouldn’t be as mad at you if you gave them a parking ticket.”
The mayor said the town would like to work with Kentville Development Corporation on finding solutions.
“Maybe there could be different ways we could accommodate people who are parking for a longer period of time and actually doing business in this town.”
In the meantime, enforcing the rules is important, Corkum said.
“We’re certainly not trying to discourage customers, we’re trying to find a balance to have available prime parking for the customers.
What did the report say?
A September report prepared by Lindsay Young, community development co-ordinator, showed there are enough parking spots to fulfill demand.
Within 600 metres of downtown, there are 458 all-day spaces on publicly-owned land.
Over a three-week period, the all-day spaces had, on average, 50 per cent occupancy rate. Centre Square, which is mostly two-hour parking, had a 50 per cent occupancy rate and two-hour street parking was 60 per cent full on average.
The report, which had included data collection on parking as well as surveys and research, recommended a move to three-hour street parking as well as a comprehensive communication strategy on parking.
Council voted to accept the report, but rejected the recommendation of three-hour street parking.
Change has come out of the study already, including improved directional signs and a new parking map.
“All businesses were sent copies of the new parking map and were asked to share with their employees,” Young said. “Right now, we are working on upgrading signage to improve awareness of where in town you can park, and once we have all the deficiencies corrected, we will issue a package.
“Of course, in the meantime, we continue to have dialogue with repeat offenders and concerned businesses,” she said.